Cuba predicted to open for Americans

The end of the United States’ embargo is likely to occur soon after Fidel Castro dies, attendees of the Cayman Business Outlook heard last week.

Michael Mandelbaum

International affairs expert Michael Mandelbaum predicts Cuba will open up for Americans. Photo: Alan Markoff

Speaker Michael Mandelbaum, who was billed as one of America’s leading authorities on international affairs, said the embargo on Cuba is increasingly controversial in the United States.

‘My guess is the policy is due for a change,’ said Mr. Mandelbaum when asked about the subject.

The embargo, which began in 1962, prohibits American businesses from trading or conducting business with Cuban interests, as well as prohibiting most travel by Americans to Cuba and the consumption of Cuban products by Americans anywhere in the world.

The United States House of Representatives has tried to pass motions lifting the travel ban to Cuba, and in 2003, the Senate also tried to pass a similar motion. However, in each case, the motion was vetoed by President George W. Bush.

The next American president will likely see things differently, Mr. Mandelbaum thinks.

‘Whoever occupies the White House will be less committed to maintaining the policy,’ he said.

A key turning point in the relations between Cuba and the United States will likely be on the death of Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has been reported to be very ill in recent weeks.

‘With no Fidel Castro, I think there will be a change in attitude in the United States, even if he is succeeded by his brother [Raul Castro],’ said Mr. Mandelbaum. ‘The opening of Cuba for American businesses and American tourists will be considerably more likely.’

That likelihood could have effects in Cayman.

The opening of Cuba to American tourists, who make up more than 80 per cent of the visitors here, has long been considered a threat to Cayman’s tourism.

Recently some local businessmen have even surmised that Cuba could draw cruise ships away from Cayman if it opens to American tourists.